Best college practices re: transgender students
July 2, 2015 10:21 AM   Subscribe

What are the best practices right now, as far as official college policies dealing with transgender students' needs? For example, making it easy to change your name on campus records. Are there any good examples of colleges doing things right?

I saw Beloit College's preferred name policy. I'm looking for other examples like that, of practical things a college administration, especially a small residential college with limited budget, can do to treat transgender students right in all aspects of college life.

Also, are there reputable trans groups/ other sources that issue guidelines or factsheets or training materials, such as tips we could distribute to faculty members and RAs about why correct names matter, dos-and-don'ts, and so on?
posted by anonymous to Education (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Bathrooms and housing are both a big deal. It's hard to succeed academically if some of your most basic bio needs can't be met with a sense of safety. Appalachian State has done a great job of installing and listing the locations of single use/gender neutral restrooms. You can also confidentially request housing accommodations.
posted by batbat at 10:31 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

There's been a lot of movement regarding admission/enrollment at womens colleges: Barnard, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:36 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'll rep for my alma mater: Carleton College has a separate section on its website for trans students. There are links to email templates to send to your professor about your preferred mail, legal forms, and local discussion groups and support groups.

In terms of practical matters, there is a list of designated contacts for changing your name on your transcripts, your mailbox, and your email, as well as a listing of safe bathrooms and how to change your housing, should you wish to do so.
posted by hmo at 10:37 AM on July 2, 2015

The University of California system allows preferred names in student records, and is now requiring new buildings and buildings undergoing renovation to create gender-neutral restrooms.. More here.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:38 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another thing I've heard about is having one's "preferred pronoun" listed in the college's records, so that when profs receive class lists at the start of each semester or quarter, the preferred pronouns are right there and easy to access without having to ask students specifically or accidentally misgender them. This can work well in conjunction with a "preferred name" system.

There is also this interesting recent article on trans students and access to intercollegiate athletics.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:14 AM on July 2, 2015

My former college, Marlboro College, has had all co-ed bathrooms for years expect in a couple locations the state mandated gendered bathrooms. Also allowed use of preferred name on class work, meal cards, mail-boxes and more.
posted by French Fry at 12:11 PM on July 2, 2015

Besides bathrooms, names/pronouns and housing, the big issue is health care. Partly that means access to transition-related care — which is something you may be able to help with if there is a student health insurance plan that you're involved in administering. (Many health plans still exclude transition-related care by default. My understanding is that because trans people are a small minority, switching to a plan that does not exclude transition-related care will not necessarily cost a lot of money, and it will make a big difference in trans students' lives.) But partly it also means educating anyone who's involved in day-to-day non-transition-related healthcare on campus, so that they can be sensitive to trans students' needs. A lot of trans people avoid doctors whenever possible for fear of being mistreated or insulted, and breaking that pattern means cultivating a reputation for being actively clueful about gender stuff.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:34 PM on July 2, 2015

This article is in my feed today
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:06 AM on July 3, 2015

One of the colleges in my hometown has a lot of information about this, has a transgender centre, and all application forms have a choice of checking "transgender" instead of male or female if that is what the person prefers.

It's Guilford College. LOTS of variety in instructors there -- many instructors of various religions and sexuality. At one time, if you were older than 23, then tuition is cheaper than a state college (it's private). PM me if you have any specific questions.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 5:35 AM on July 3, 2015

(and all application forms have a choice of checking "transgender" instead of male or female if that is what the person prefers.

I feel like I should mention that many trans people would find a form like this really problematic, though it would help somewhat if it was also made clear that trans women are permitted to check "female" and trans men are permitted to check "male." It's true that there are some people who identify as transgender instead of identifying as male or female. But it is much more common for us to identify as transgender in addition to male or female, or as transgender in addition to some other gender identity (genderqueer, bigender, agender, etc), and forms which imply that "male," "female" and "trans" are necessarily mutually exclusive come across as clueless at best.

(Unfortunately, there are some prominent cis "allies" who are promoting the "[]male []female []trans" formula. But I've never encountered a trans person who prefers that.)

In addition, it's worth considering whether you actually need to know whether a student is trans or not. In general, the best practice is to collect as little demographic data as you can get away with, and to be as flexible as possible with the data you are required to collect. Title IX and housing will no doubt require you to collect some. But if you don't have any legal or administrative need to know which students are trans, please do not add a "transgender" checkbox on forms just because it looks inclusive. The actual effect is to force trans students to out themselves in contexts in which they would often prefer not to.

This infographic by trans UX designer Kylie Jack gives some suggestions for collecting gender information on forms.

posted by nebulawindphone at 8:02 AM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Mod note: Update from the OP:
Thanks for these suggestions!

I'm happy to say that our college is going to be implementing some of the changes this fall (details not clear yet, but at least the name stuff)... and just in time, because we'll apparently have our first few out trans students in this incoming class. Thank you, and if you find more examples I'll be checking back.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:32 AM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ask Me: What trans and nonbinary students want their professors to know - a video interview with college students, from the Chronicle of Higher Education
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:45 AM on January 19, 2016

Federal government offers some Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students (pdf)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:32 PM on May 13, 2016

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